An Investigation Into Australia’s Intense Obsession With Pink
She played to a staggering 600,000 Australians on her last tour.
It’s August 25, 2009, and US popstar Pink is on the upper floors of the Brisbane Entertainment Centre, getting ready to cut through a giant red ribbon.
She’s being honoured in a ceremony to mark her status the Centre’s best-selling artist ever, a feat she achieved by selling out eleven shows on her Funhouse Tour. But instead of gifting her a respectful plaque, or perhaps a star in the pavement, the BEC has decided to honour Pink with a suite of toilets, dubbed — of course — the ‘Pink Ladies’.
It’s a typically wry Australian gift, and one that the woman born Alecia Moore definitely approves of. “If anyone needs to pee later on, I have a toilet upstairs dedicated to me,” she’ll joke to her fans during her show later that night. “Go and christen it.”
“Pink is now etched into our rock and roll history and we won’t ever forget this extraordinary feat,’ BEC venue manager Trish McNamara said at the toilet opening. “Pink is our number one.”
McNamara wasn’t wrong then, and she still isn’t wrong now. Pink is the most popular female act in Australia’s history…but why, exactly?
Pink By Numbers
To understand how intense Australia’s obsession with Pink is, we only need to look at her incredible touring record. Buckle up kids, because we’re diving headfirst into some big numbers.
First, we need to go back to 2007, when she sold out 35 shows across the country on her I’m Not Dead tour, grossing over $42 million. It was only her third ever world tour.
She then returned in 2009 for her Funhouse Tour, where she proceeded to break all the records she had set with I’m Not Dead — and then set a hell of a lot more. She performed 58 shows across the country over three months, breaking John Farnham’s record for the most shows ever played in Australia on a single tour.
She sold out 17 shows at Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena, once again beating John Farnham’s record (who had only played 12…pfft). Ticket sales for Melbourne alone exceeded $21.7 million dollars, with total attendance sitting at around 215,000 people. That was a bit over 5 percent of Melbourne’s population at the time.
In Sydney, she surpassed Kylie Minogue to become the biggest selling live act ever to perform in the city, with 10 sold out shows at the Sydney Entertainment Centre and another two at the Acer Arena (now the Qudos Bank Arena.) Ticket sales were $15.5 million, with 146,420 people seeing her perform.
Then there was the Toilet-Achieving 11 shows in Brisbane, plus more in Adelaide, Wollongong, Canberra and Perth. All up, the Funhouse Tour amassed gross earnings of over $80 million, plus a casual $10 million in merch sales. We don’t even need to italicise that figure to emphasise just how ridiculous that is. (For comparison, Adele pulled in around $35 million for her 2017 tour.)
And then in 2013, Pink landed for her The Truth About You tour and broke all of those records again.
She broke her own record set with Funhouse by performing 18 sold out shows at the Rod Laver Arena, raking in over $29.2 million in Melbourne alone. She played another 12 shows at the Entertainment Centre in Sydney, bringing her total of sold out shows at the venue to 26. Which, you guessed it, is another record. Not content to stop there, she then added an additional four shows in Sydney a month later at the Allphones Arena (now Qudos Bank Arena).
“All up, she played to well over 600,000 Australians — about 2.6 percent of the population”
By the time Pink wrapped The Truth About Love, the tour had become the biggest selling tour by a female solo artist in Australia’s history. All up, she played to well over 600,000 Australians — about 2.6 percent of the population.
And then there’s the album sales. Pink has had four ARIA #1 albums so far, with total sales in excess of 3.6 million units. Which means around 15 percent of the Australian population have a Pink record somewhere in their house. The Truth About Love was the highest selling album in Australia two years in a row. Which is, YOU FUCKING GUESSED IT, a record.
I think you get the idea by now.
The question of ‘Why’ isn’t intended to be offensive at all. Pink is obviously an immensely talented musician and performer with a back catalogue stuffed full of absolute bangers.
She’s enjoyed sustained success all over the world, but, as detailed above, her success in Australia far outstrips that of any other country. In the same curious way that Lionel Richie is a massive star in the Middle East, or Detroit singer songwriter Rodriguez is ludicrously popular in South Africa.
“It was the songs which connected first, long before her Australian fans discovered she is the most honest, unfiltered, unscripted popstar on the planet,” says longtime News Corp music writer Kathy McCabe. “She is one of the few contemporary pop artists who has documented every stage of life in song, from booze and drug-fuelled rebellion, through the rollercoaster of her relationship with husband Carey Hart and becoming a mother. It’s not all love and heartbreak stuff.”
And when Australians did finally discover her personality, we became obsessed. In interviews and articles she is constantly referred to as “down to earth” and “approachable” — traits that Australians love with a fiery passion.
“Her attitude and songs and performance are all appealing to and can be made out to connect to some sense of Australianness we think we know, as fatuous as that argument is,” veteran music journalist Bernard Zuel told Music Junkee. “She has put in years of effort here with regular promotional visits as well as tours. She became an approachable star while remaining an overseas star, which is how we prefer our biggest acts.”
Popstars always walk a blurry line between aspiration and approachability. We want to relate to them, yes, but we also want to be inspired — and Pink is perhaps the perfect intersection of these two desires. She presents as relentlessly human, which is probably the oddest quality a popstar can possess.
In short, she passes the Would I Have A Beer With Them? test. It’s not only popstars we do this too either — we have a long track record of claiming foreigners we like as our own, such as Belgian tennis player Kim Clijsters, who is universally referred to as “Aussie Kim“.
It’s Not Just What She Performs…But How
I put the “Why?” question to a number of representatives from venues across the country, and also asked whether there was anything about Pink’s performance style that particularly captivated audiences.
The answer was practically unanimous: acrobatics.
Pink is a trained gymnast — she’s spoken at length about her childhood dream of becoming an Olympian — and every tour of hers incorporates some element of acrobatics, be it trapeze or other aerial work. It’s undeniably impressive, and also seriously dangerous. While dangling above the crowd during a show in Nuremberg in 2010, Pink’s harness malfunctioned and dropped her straight onto a steel barrier below. She was rushed to hospital and somehow recovered well enough to perform the next day.
“After too many contemptible pop tours by artists who couldn’t be bothered to sing live let alone look like they were enjoying themselves, Pink set a new benchmark for the pop concert,” says McCabe. “And it wasn’t just about the flying through the air on zip lines and bungee cords. Her dancers brought choreography you would expect to see from an acclaimed troupe to the concerts stage and Pink’s band, most of whom have been with her for more than a decade, rock.”
So you’re not just getting a show, you’re getting a show within a show. Of course, she’s definitely not the only pop act to take the ‘Everything And The Kitchen Sink’ approach to performance, but there probably isn’t another singer out there that can hurtle upside down around the arena and somehow remain in tune.
The Love Affair Isn’t Ending Anytime Soon
Next year, Pink will land in the country for her latest run of shows on the Beautiful Trauma tour — and yeah, it’s gonna be big.
Due to overwhelming demand for pre sale tickets through promoter Live Nation, new shows were being added on a daily basis all last week — before general admission tickets were even on sale.
To give you an idea of the madness, I’ve had to rewrite this section countless times due to shows being added in different cities around the country. The first time I wrote this sentence she was scheduled to play four shows in Brisbane — now she’s playing seven. And there’s no doubt by the time we publish this article that number will be higher.
Regardless, at the time of writing she’ll play four times in both Perth and Adelaide, nine shows in Melbourne, and seven shows each in Sydney and Brisbane.
Not yet record breaking, but I wouldn’t be brave enough to bet against her.
Jules LeFevre is Staff Writer for Music Junkee and inthemix and is a born again Pink Stan. She is on Twitter.
Touring figures provided in part by promoter Live Nation